The year was 1962. John F. Kennedy was president. A gallon of gasoline cost 20 cents. A loaf of bread and a 16-ounce bottle of Coca-Cola each cost a dime.

And, in Arizona, Valley residents got more than their money's worth when it came to handling the heat. In fact, they experienced the state's hottest August ever - until this past month.

August 2011 is now the hottest August on record since 1896, the first year that weather records were kept in Arizona, according to the National Weather Service.

Average high temperatures for the month were 109 degrees, surpassing those from nearly a half century ago when they were 107.3 degrees, and seven daily high temperatures were tied or broken during the 31 days of August with Aug. 26 being the hottest day of the month in history at 117 degrees.

The average low for August was 87.5 degrees, according to James Sawtelle, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

An excessive heat advisory warning residents that it could be 110 degrees or hotter began on Aug. 22 and was in place for 11 days until it was cancelled on Friday morning. For five straight days - Aug. 22-26 - the temperatures were 113 or higher.

And, between Aug. 22 and Aug. 31, except for Aug. 28, it was 110 or hotter. On Aug. 28, the high was 107.

Much of the hotter-than-normal temperatures were attributed to the "La Niña" conditions Valley residents experienced in the winter with drier and warmer conditions throughout the southwest as the northwest experienced cooler temperatures and wetter conditions. Urbanization also plays a role in heating up the Valley's asphalt.

"This is very unusual," said Doug Green, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "I could not have forecasted in June that we would've had our hottest August on record. We just don't have temperatures in the 113 and 114 range as much as we did in August. Even when we weren't breaking records, we were surely close. We're a lot bigger as a city, and that makes a difference, too."

But during La Niña conditions, a high central pressure system over the Pacific Ocean causes moisture to decrease even in the tropics, and eventually moves across the southwestern United States and causes drought conditions.

"The fact that it's been this hot, goes back to spring," Green said. "Winter and spring was drier than normal and that is contributing to what we're experiencing now."

During this time, people who go out are urged to carry cold water with them and keep their pets in a cool place with plenty of water.

But what is in store for September?

It cooled off a little on Friday morning, but that only lasted for a short time. Cold air lingering in low-level areas of New Mexico came west and actually cooled things off and brought in some rain, Sawtelle said.

As of 3:05 p.m. on Friday, it reached 100 degrees, but temperatures for the first week of September are forecast to reach 110.

On Saturday, a high of 109 was predicted with the heat coming back in full force on Sunday and possibly reaching 110.

Then, on Monday, cloudy conditions will return bringing in a 20 percent chance of rain in the evening with a high of 107.

A high of 109 is expected for Tuesday and a high of 108 is forecast for Wednesday.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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